My favorite part of traveling is coming across random, unexpected sights. A park full of giant, bread loving, iguanas sure qualifies.
Located in the heart of downtown Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, Parque de Simon Bolivar, known to locals and tourists alike as the Iguana Park is home to hundreds of these dragon like creatures. Friendly, as long as they are well fed, the iguanas have been the park’s residents for many years.
The park is quite small, no more than a half block with a church and statue of Simon Bolivar guarding over the iguanas. The iguanas are quite use to humans and behave themselves, even when pulled or poked by tourists. Don’t even think about picking one up though; they have sharp claws and they aren’t afraid to use them.
The iguanas are fed daily by park visitors and are guarded over by a few “park rangers” who make sure none are stolen from the park.
While the iguanas love fruits, vegetables, and lettuce their favorite treat happens to be plain white bread. The bread is not very nutritious for them but the sugars in the bread make it a great dessert treat. If you do bring bread, prepare for a mini riot as dozens of iguana compete for the treat. If you are visiting with small children, you might want to avoid the bread crowds as some of the iguanas are nearly as big as children and they can get quite rowdy.
If you don’t remember to bring your own treats to the park for the iguanas, you can purchase bags of plantan chips at the gates of the park. The iguanas will often eat right out of your hand but be careful, they will bite if your fingers look tasty.
Besides the iguanas, the park also features a pond with large snapping turtles, tortoises, and a few fish. You will also notice a few squirrels competing for space on the crowded tree branches above the park.
Couple Travel Tips
- The iguanas are generally well behaved, but as stated above, do NOT pick them up. The iguanas can leave very deep cuts with their claws that are easily infected in the humid climate of Guayaquil.
- This area of town can be quite deserted on Sundays. If you do decide to walk to the park, be aware of your surroundings as the city does have a relatively high crime rate for petty theft.
- For a real treat, ask one of the “park rangers” when feeding time is. Although the iguanas are fed by countless tourists each day, at least once a day, park officials bring in loads of vegetables and lettuce for the iguanas as well. Suddenly the ground will be filled with dozens of iguanas all fighting over the best of the food.